The Press is my local newspaper. It’s one of New Zealand’s top four daily papers. I read it, on the web and on paper. It is a very important part of South Island, and especially Canterbury life. It even published a letter from me earlier this week, in which I pointed out a few factual errors in an opinion column in last Saturday’s paper (an economist getting his climate science wrong). I was therefore a trifle concerned to read its editorial today, which chastises the world’s diplomats for their high carbon antics in Bali (there are 15,000 of them, from all over the world, after all), and then concludes with this choice paragraph:
But failure to agree in the end may not be a bad thing. There are some who argue that muddling through with more ad hoc adjustments to climate change may be all that is needed. A major worry in the debate over climate change is that, where so much is contentious, any proposed overall “solution” may wind up doing more harm than good. The confusion of thought that led the UN to hold what looks like a jamboree for bureaucrats on a tropical island shows why that worry can sometimes seem justified.
Newspapers, like people (even economists) are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts. Failure in Bali may be inevitable. To believe that the world will work together to beat a global problem requires a leap of faith that flies in the face of historical precedent, but if we get no deal on emissions reductions, or a deal that delivers meaningless or insufficient cuts, the prospect for the world is not rosy. “Muddling through” is not an option to be preferred. The science does not support that contention. The editorial writer must have ignored his own paper’s news coverage of the issue and preferred to take the advice of the sceptical rump – Lawson, de Freitas and their sponsors. To further suggest that the solution could do more harm than good simply flies in the face of the evidence – from the IPCC, Stern, even the NZ Treasury.
If The Press expects its views to have influence and command respect, it will need to ensure that its opinion writers demonstrate some acquaintance with reality before they commit words to paper. The politics belongs in the response to the problem, not in denying that it exists.